One of the things I’ve discovered since spending many hours a week writing for a living (and since having children) is that I have lots of phrases and words that I say too often, without realising it.
I noticed it from the children first, when phrases like “that’s so random” started coming out of my daughter’s mouth.
I haven’t tallied it, that would be too depressing, but I imagine I say it a dozen times a day. That at least is quite cute coming from a four-year-old. There are other phrases, some repeatable, some not, that I’d rather my kids hadn’t learned.
Phrases crop up in my writing too. I’m considerably more aware of them since starting the daily blog, because I’m also editing every day. In the past editing happened in chunks, I would use ‘find/replace’ to remove evil, repetitive words, and they would disappear from my mind. Words like “Wow” and “Absolutely” spring to mind. I say them, I write them. Far too often.
If only speech was as easy to edit as a manuscript. If I could ‘find/replace’ in my head and remove all the annoying words from my speech. Because, then, I could stop my kids saying them.
The naughty words or bad phrases they pick up from me in my weaker moments are easily controlled because they come back rarely and then only to test me.
The harmless words, though, the ones that are simply annoying: they’re much harder to remove, from their mouths or mine.
At the moment the evil word is “Just”.
I suspect I say it a hundred times a day. Something like this:
Kids: “Mummy, sit with us!”
Mummy: “I’m just going to stack the dishwasher/make a cuppa/ put the dog out”
I’m sure “Just a minute” is a standard parenting phrase, however horrible. Only, now the tables are turned. It’s:
Mummy: “Time to go kids, put your shoes on.”
Kids: “I’m just finding my toy/ making my bed/ putting this irrelevant thing into this box.”
Knowing you started it makes it no less frustrating. More so in fact. Now every time I hear myself saying “Just”, I cringe and attempt to think of another word. I’m as self-conscious in my speech as I am becoming in my writing, through editing Claire every day. I just need to think of different words, then I just need to say them often enough that the kids just forget they ever heard the word just. Hmmm.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire stood chewing a fingernail, watching the two men talking through the small pane of glass in the door. A knot behind her ribs throbbed in time with the ache in the back of her skull. I should probably drink something other than caffeine before my head caves in.
She could hear Ruth breathing softly behind her. The sound was no longer comforting. Her sister hadn’t woken once in the twelve hours and more since Claire had arrived at the hospital. She studied the faces of the doctor and her brother, trying to guess the gist of their conversation from their expressions.
Both looked serious but Claire knew that was Robert’s habitual expression, and tried not to let it twist the knot ever tighter in her tummy. The room closed in around her, hot and muggy. Claire had already tried the window but it didn’t open.
What do they think Ruth will do, try and shimmy down the drainpipe and run for freedom. Or maybe someone will climb up four stories and break in to steal the personal effects of a sick person. There must be easier methods of security.
A dry cough behind her caused Claire to spin round. Grasping the wall to steady herself as lack of sleep and too much caffeine made her head spin, Claire peered at the lump of sheets on the bed to see if Ruth was awake. There seemed no life and for a moment Claire felt her own heart stop. Don’t let her be dead, I couldn’t stand it. Not on my watch. Not ever.
With a push against the wall, Claire propelled herself towards the bed, slumping onto the pull down mattress before her knees betrayed her.
“Ruth? Can you hear me, sis?” And still the motionless silence dragged at the air, making it hard to breathe. Claire leaned closer, trying to see her sister’s face. It was turned into the pillow as if hiding from the brightness.
“Do you want me to turn out the light, Ruthie?” There was no response. Then Claire thought she could detect a flicker of movement, a flutter of eyelash. One eye flicked open, searched around, then closed again.
Claire exhaled loudly in relief.
She waited, straining to hear the whisper of sound.
“If you’re going to lean so close after coffee, can you at least suck on a mint?””
Claire sat back in shock, heat flooding her face. Then she heard the dry coughing sound again and realised her sister was laughing. Feeling as high as helium, she began laughing too. She saw the doctor and Robert turn towards the sound, their matching frowns deepening. The sight only made Claire laugh harder.